Using US-style city stadium events to bring DTM action to large population areas, the traveling circus pitched its tents outside the 1972 Olympic Stadium in Munich. Within walking distance of BMW’s corporate HQ, assembly plant, museum and Welt building, this was the home race for the Bavarian team. However, the tight track and intermittent rain showers created uncertainty.
The paved stadium was divided into two identical 2014ft “figure-8” tracks, with cars running side-by-side in very close racing. Winning margins were often less than a tenth of a second, keeping the crowd on the edge of their seats.
The action was non-stop, with stunt drivers and riders entertaining the crowd between the DTM rounds. There was even a music concert at lunchtime to keep the entire family happy.
We were incredibly fortunate to get firsthand experience of the track by being invited to take a passenger ride in a FIA GT4-spec M3 piloted by BMW test driver Marco Wittmann.
Equipped with a full cage, racing Recaros and smelling of race fuel, it was a series of frantic laps with the driver continually on full power or under heavy braking. We were thrown around as Marco power-slid the M3 out of each tight turn, expertly skimming the concrete barriers.
Down on the track, surrounded by 45000 spectators, you got a real sense of the amazing atmosphere as well as the daunting task faced by the DTM drivers, who needed their tightest “Norisring” steering racks to complete the turns. Yet remarkably there were no crashes and only minor body damage to one of the cars.
Saturday was a team relay competition, won by the Mercedes-AMG C-Coupé pairing of Ralf Schumacher and Jamie Green, who beat the two Audi A5 DTM of Timo Scheider and Adrien Tambay.
Sunday saw head-to-head racing, with the loser from each round going home. One by one, BMW’s home team was knocked out, although Canadian Bruno Spengler finished in third for BMW Team Schnitzer in his menacing matte-black BMW Bank M3 DTM. He was eliminated by Jamie Green, who advanced to the final to meet Swede Mattias Ekström in his Team Abt Sportline Red Bull A5 DTM.
Ekström had reached the final by knocking out first Hand and then Tomczyk in their BMWs, although he only beat the latter by 0.09sec in a very close fight.
Compulsory pit stops in the later rounds created even more excitement as valuable tenths were lost to tire changes, but Ekström beat Gary Paffett’s Mercedes more convincingly to reach the final.
Despite very wet conditions, Ekström’s three wins in the “Race of Champions” appeared to give him the upper hand. He won the first race of the final, before the drivers swapped sides and Ekström came through to win by 1.5sec after Green was delayed by his pit stop.
“It was a nice weekend,” said Red Bull driver Ekström. “The car was perfect all weekend but the final against Jamie was tough; I was running behind after the first laps but managed to improve and win. There are no championship points for this victory, but we showed we’re able to win races and it was a fantastic reward for the team.”
Meanwhile, we caught up with Joey Hand who confirmed: “The event in the Olympic Stadium was definitely very special. I’ve never experienced one-on-one duels like that on a racetrack, so it was great fun. It was a great show for the fans; they could get closer to the teams and drivers than at any other race this season.”
The teams had a long break before the remainder of the season, which includes five races in Germany and four around Europe. A BMW representative spoke about how there was a push to expand the series globally, increasing its stature and reach to a wider audience. With discussions for a race in North America and Asia, it could undermine their cost-saving measures, but it’ll definitely help with their air miles!